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Leading Off:

MA-Sen: Interesting—are we about to see a new generation of left-leaning billionaires rise up to counter the Sheldon Adelsons, David Kochs, and Foster Friesses of the world? Philanthropist Tom Steyer, who made his fortune in the private equity world, has issued an unusual challenge to Rep. Stephen Lynch, who supports the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. In a biting open letter, Steyer demands that Lynch "act like a real Democrat and oppose Keystone's dirty energy" by "high noon on Friday" or else face "an aggressive public education campaign" ahead of his April 30th primary matchup against fellow Rep. Ed Markey. (Markey does not support the pipeline.)

Steyer's threat seems real: According to the Washington Post, he's spent almost $40 million on environmental advocacy in his home state of California over the last two election cycles. Along with Mike Bloomberg, who's been spending big sums on guns, Steyer's move could herald a new chapter in electoral politics. Lynch, though, is uncowed, with a spokesman saying, "It's like something out of a James Bond film: a billionaire giving an ultimatum." If Lynch fancies himself as 007, then he should be able to escape Goldfinger's space laser without a problem, right?

Senate:

LA-Sen: GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy has long been viewed as the establishment favorite to take on Sen. Mary Landrieu next year, but it looks like fellow Rep. John Fleming is trying to psych himself up to enter the race—and perhaps psych Cassidy out. Fleming shared a new internal poll with The Hill, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, that shows him neck-and-neck with Cassidy, though both are hampered at this early stage by low name recognition.

In a four-way matchup that reflects Louisiana's jungle primary system, Landrieu takes 47 percent to 15 for Fleming, 14 for Cassidy, and 6 for state schools superintendent Chas Roemer. I think that number is actually pretty good for Landrieu, but it wouldn't be enough to avoid a runoff, which requires earning 50 percent of the vote. In a hypothetical second round against Fleming alone, though, she comes awfully close, with a 49-44 lead. So, uh, great for John Fleming?

No, but he isn't trying to demonstrate anything with these particular toplines. Rather, he'd like you to focus on a variety of informed ballot questions where he performs better, but seriously, the fact that he "earns" a 19-point edge over Cassidy after respondents are told Fleming is more conservative and Cassidy less so is really unimpressive. I mean, what else would you expect? Personally, I think Fleming wants to convince Cassidy to stand down so that he can rally the entire GOP behind him. And it may work—Cassidy's been awful quiet all cycle. But it's still very early, and Louisiana politics is notorious for starting late. If this is a shot across the bow, it looks a lot more like the discharge of a flare gun than a cannon.

Gubernatorial:

AZ-Gov: Ah, major bummer. Former Surgeon General Rich Carmona, who fell narrowly short after running a strong race for Senate last year, says he won't run for governor in 2014. Carmona had held open the possibility for a couple of months, but ultimately the prospect of another race sounded too bruising (he says he's "still recovering" from his 2012 fight against Republican Jeff Flake). Carmona says he's not shutting the door to a future bid for office, but he's 63, so his window of opportunity is probably closing soon. (If John McCain retires in 2016, though, that might prove tempting.)

In practical terms, Carmona's decision opens up the field to other Democrats. Former Arizona Board of Regents President Fred DuVal created an exploratory committee a little while back, and House Minority Leader Chad Campbell could also enter the race, among others. The GOP similarly lacks an obvious frontrunner, so contested primaries on both sides may well be in the offing.

Carmona's move may have allowed DuVal to gather a bit of establishment support behind him, though. He just announced endorsements from three former U.S. Reps.: Harry Mitchell, Karan English, and Sam Coppersmith. Coppersmith was, naturally, a Carmona supporter last year, but he also backed the winning horse in the AZ-09 primary, Kyrsten Sinema.

HI-Gov, -Sen: This internal poll came out about a week ago, but it's most definitely still newsworthy. At the very end of December, you'll undoubtedly recall that Gov. Neil Abercrombie passed over the late Sen. Dan Inouye's reported choice to succeed him in the Senate, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, in favor of then-Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz. Abercrombie's decision engendered a lot of ill will on the part of Inouye and Hanabusa partisans, but he was defended just as fiercely by his own supporters, who insisted the choice should be his alone to make. But that certainly didn't close the books on the story.

Indeed, from the moment Schatz's selection was announced, political operatives speculated that Hanabusa could challenge the man who snubbed her in the Democratic primary for governor—or go after the guy who was picked instead of her for Senate. Now, a leaked poll from Hanabusa's camp, conducted by QMark Research, suggests she might be in a dominant position no matter which route she takes. In a hypothetical matchup with Abercrombie, she leads 55-28; against Schatz, she holds a 54-32 edge.

Hanabusa isn't commenting, though, so it's hard to know what her thoughts truly are. And while these numbers look good for her, it's important to remember how tricky Hawaii can be to poll accurately. (That's on top of the usual caveats about internal polls.) Still, you don't conduct a poll like this if you aren't at least thinking about a possible run, but given Hawaii's late primaries, Hanabusa doesn't have to rush a decision, so it may be a while yet before we see any further concrete developments.

PA-Gov: PoliticsPA reports that former state Department of Environmental Protection chief Kathleen McGinty is "seriously exploring" a bid for governor, citing an unnamed source. Oddly enough, McGinty's successor at the DEP, John Hanger, is already running in the Democratic primary, which means that if she makes the race, I'll be using copy-and-paste a lot on their titles. I'm not sure what McGinty's angle would be in the likely event that Rep. Allyson Schwartz enters the race, but her nameless backer calls her a "centrist, pro-jobs, pro-growth, and pro-environment Democrat," which sounds like code for "doesn't want to get called a 'liberal.' "

House:

NC-12: According to an anonymous source, Bloomberg reports that Democratic Rep. Mel Watt is a potential candidate to become head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The agency is currently run by an acting director, and President Obama reportedly is close to nominating a permanent successor. But if Watt is tapped, it may not be smooth sailing, as another North Carolinian, Joseph Smith, saw his nomination scuttled thanks to recalcitrant Republicans in 2010. The 67-year-old Watt, though, may be looking for the exits regardless: Early last year, Watt suggested he might not seek re-election, though ultimately he did.

SC-01: It's been well-nigh impossible to get a solid read on the special Republican primary in South Carolina's 1st Congressional District, largely because the field is so big (16 candidates) and the public polling non-existent. What's more, an April 2 runoff is all but guaranteed, so Tuesday's vote feels like a mere warmup. The National Journal's Sarah Mimms does a good job profiling each of the more plausible runoff contenders in brief if you'd like to know more about the various players, but I'm unwilling to hazard a guess as to who might make the second round. It's even possible ex-Gov. Mark Sanford, despite his name recognition, might not live to fight again in two weeks' time. We'll only know on Tuesday.

UT-04: Republican Mia Love managed to blow what should have been one of the easier pickups for the GOP last cycle: She lost by 1 percent to Dem Rep. Jim Matheson in a seat torn asunder by redistricting that also delivered 67 percent of its vote for Mitt Romney. Love now says she is "very seriously" considering a rematch, and oftentimes, narrow defeats like hers clear the path to a second attempt. But even some members of her own party criticized how Love ran her campaign, so I wouldn't be surprised if she faced competition from fellow Republicans who think they're better able to complete the job she left glaringly unfinished last year.

As for Matheson, well, if he could survive a presidential year in a mostly-new district, I think 2014 may well be easier for him. For one, he won't have to contend with Mormon favorite son Mitt Romney at the top of the ballot. (Utah was by far Romney's best state.) And for another, he'll be more settled into his district and the voters who were new to him last time will have gotten to know him for a full term. It'll still be an exceptionally difficult race, but there may be no more proven survivor in American politics than Jim Matheson.

Other Races:

NYC Mayor: At long last, the Democratic primary field is complete: City Comptroller John Liu made it official on Sunday, kicking off his campaign with a madcap series of 15 events around all five boroughs. While at one point I'd written Liu off thanks to the series of campaign finance investigations that have dogged his inner circle—two associates go on trial next month, though Liu himself has never been accused of malfeasance—I'm starting to wonder if he might not be an unexpected wildcard.

Liu has struck by far the most populist tone among the four major contenders, and to judge by this weekend's rollout, his supporters are truly fervent. Liu has also taken an openly defiant stance toward investigators, brazenly challenging them a few weeks ago at a candidate forum to either "put up or shut up." And despite his woes, his fundraising has actually been quite successful, thanks to a keen understanding of how NYC's generous system of matching funds works. That's a lot of tinder, and it could lead to a very explosive campaign.

Grab Bag:

California: I guess it's pretty telling that Roll Call's latest installment in their "Farm Team" series—they're up to California now—doesn't even mention the word "Republican." In fact, the only GOPers Kyle Trygstad cites are a pair of congressmen likely to face stiff challenges (Gary Miller and Jeff Denham). The rest of the piece focuses on young up-and-coming Democrats who seem like they are biding their time, waiting for their respective mentors to retire so that they can run to fill their House seats. And to think, this is the state that gave us Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Data: This sounds like a very worthy project indeed: The folks at Open Elections say their goal is "to create the first free, comprehensive, standardized, linked set of election data for the United States, including federal and statewide offices." They are currently looking for volunteers to help them with their data gathering efforts, so if you are interested in lending a hand, click through for instructions on how to get involved.

• Passings: Condolences to friends and family of former Washington Gov. Booth Gardner, who died over the weekend at age 76 from complications from Parkinson's disease. He served from 1984 to 1992, so you may only know his name as the first Democrat in what's now the longest Democratic gubernatorial winning streak in the country. He may also have been the last Washington governor to actually do big things (such as the Growth Management Act and the Basic Health Plan). In his later years, he was one of the leaders in the push for legalization of physician-assisted suicide, something the state passed in 2008. (David Jarman)

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Tue Mar 19, 2013 at 05:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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